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By Lynne Payne
Lynne is a southern transplant from the midwest, a children's pastor, baby-lover, cowgirl, a twin and a new aunt, coffee-lover, and passionate follower of Jesus. She loves helping kids grow closer to God and helping the Bible come alive for them.

Family Advent Activities

Most families have special traditions for Christmastime. But how many of those traditions truly reflect upon the real meaning of Christmas? This advent season, take some time to truly and intentionally celebrate and reflect on Jesus: His birth, His life, and the hope of His return.

The word advent comes from the Latin word, adventus, which means “coming.” The advent season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and ends on Christmas Eve when the waiting and preparation end.  Advent is when we celebrate the coming of Christ, both His birth and the anticipation of His return.

Here are some ideas for activities and traditions you can do with your family this Advent to celebrate Jesus. Fit them into your schedule however you’d like. The most important thing is to take some time to celebrate Advent together. Your kids will love starting new traditions and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas! 

Family Advent Calendar

An Advent calendar is used to count down the days until Christmas. Some Advent calendars contain small surprises, such as a piece of chocolate, in each day’s slot. The purpose of Advent calendars is to help build anticipation and excitement for the celebration of Christmas.

An easy way to make a fun countdown for the kids is to put together an Advent paper chain. You can use Christmas-y paper or any kind of construction paper. Cut the paper into one-inch wide strips about six inches long and then write something special that you can do as a family to celebrate Christmas on that day.  (Include things like: hop in the van for a ride to look at Christmas lights, take some cookies to our neighbor, watch a Christmas movie together, go shopping for our Angel Tree gift.) Staple the strips into rings, hooking them onto each other to form a paper chain with 24 links. Each day until Christmas, the kids will pull one link off the chain and discover what the family can do together that day.

Family Advent wreath

Supplies Needed: Styrofoam ring, florist wire, 4 colored candles, 1 white candle, and greenery from your yard (or artificial greenery from the craft store).

An advent wreath symbolizes the cycle of continuous eternal life in Jesus.  The four colored candles represent the four Sundays in Advent, while the white candle in the middle represents Christ’s coming.

Use the florist wire to attach your greens to the Styrofoam wreath, and let the kids help—it doesn’t have to look perfect! Optional decorations for the wreath include bead strings, holly, ornaments, or flowers.

Once the wreath is complete, place the four colored candles evenly around the wreath and the white one in the center. Now, position the wreath in a special place in your home. You will light one candle each Sunday in Advent and the white one on Christmas Eve.

Lighting the Advent Candles: Use your advent wreath with the four colored candles and one white candle. A good time to light the candles is right before or after dinner. Each week, you will light the candle for that week, plus one candle for each week of Advent that has already passed. Read from God’s Word together and then close in prayer before blowing out the candles. Make sure there is constant adult supervision when using candles and matches, and please don’t leave the candles unattended.

First Sunday: The first candle is the candle of hope. Light one colored candle to symbolize hope.
Read Romans 15:13.

Second Sunday: The second candle is the candle of peace. Light two colored candles for hope and peace. 
Read Luke 2:14.

Third Sunday: The third candle is the candle of joy. Light three candles.  The third one symbolizes joy. Read Luke 2:10 and Acts 2:28.

Fourth Sunday: The fourth candle is the candle of love. Light all four colored candles: hope, peace, joy and love.
 Read John 3:16-17.

Christmas Eve: The fifth candle is the light of Jesus Christ. Light all four candles and then the fifth white candle in the middle. 
Read Luke 1:68-79. 

Make a Nativity Scene

You don’t have to have preschoolers to enjoy playing with play dough.  Pull out several cans of play dough and assign different family members to specific scenes that depict the story of the birth of Christ. (Scenes could include: coming to Bethlehem, in the stable, shepherds on the hillside, wise men traveling, wise men bowing down.)  This is really a lot of fun, and yet so simple.  If you don’t mind that the play dough dries out, leave the scenes set up in various parts of the house.  Then, as visitors stop by the house, they can see what you have done and be reminded that the birth of Jesus the Christ is the real reason we celebrate. 

Baking Cookies and Blessing Others

Supplies: sugar cookie recipe, cookie cutters, sprinkles and icing.

The world likes to make us think that the meaning of Christmas is for us to get as many gifts for ourselves as possible. It promotes greed, selfishness, and jealousy. Do you think that’s what God wants us to focus on this advent season?

God wants us to think of others more than ourselves and share His love with them. One yummy way we can do that is by surprising someone with some cookies so they know we care about them. Let’s think together of someone we can bake cookies for—maybe a neighbor, teacher, grandparent, friend, pastor, or how about the truck driver who is parked at an exit and is all by himself.

Use this opportunity to work together to bake cookies.  Stop and pray that God would help you share His love with the recipient as you deliver them.

Mix up your favorite sugar cookie dough. Use the cookie cutters to cut out heart shapes. Then, set the kids lose with icing and sprinkles to decorate the cookies. Wrap the completed cookies in a tin or tissue paper and add a simple note that says, “God bless you this Christmas.” Make sure the children are involved in the actual delivery.

Go Star Gazing

Look up and read together Matthew 2:2 - "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we saw the star in the East, and have come to worship Him.” And Matthew 2:10 -  “And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly, and with great joy.”

On a clear evening, bundle everyone up and go outside for a time of stargazing. Look at the stars in the sky and talk about these questions.

  • Which star is the brightest?

  • Do any of them look like designs or pictures?

  • Have you ever thought about God using stars to communicate with us? When He wanted to show the wise men the way to baby Jesus, God used a star to show them the way.

  • How do you think the wise men felt as they followed the star?

  • Do you think you would have followed the star if you would have been there?

  • What are some ways God leads us and shows us His way today?

Family MinistryRyan Frank